Construction laborer Yi Jichun has never heard of Illinois or Iowa. But the migrant worker’s favorite comfort food comes straight out of the U.S. Midwest: soybean oil.
The world’s biggest consumers of edible oils, Chinese households have developed a taste for the stuff that would make a county fair fry cook proud. Be it a simple stir-fry, poached fish or deep-fried pork ribs, many Chinese diners love their grub covered in an oily sheen. Jugs of the golden liquid make popular gifts for Chinese New Year.
“Without the oil, it would taste too plain,” Yi said as he tucked into a lunch of sliced cucumbers and chicken drumsticks slathered with grease. “I wouldn’t want to finish it.”